Modern Reforged!

Posted in Perilous Research on January 22, 2015

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Welcome back to Perilous Research,'s exclusive Magic Online column. Early this week, the new banned and restricted announcement was made. The updates of Modern's banned list are of particular interest with a Modern Pro Tour just weeks away. What decks will succeed in a world without Birthing Pod, Treasure Cruise, and Dig Through Time? Today, we'll be attempting to identify the best strategies in the newly reforged Modern format.

The first and most obvious plan involves looking at successful Modern decks that don't use Dig Through Time, Treasure Cruise, or Birthing Pod. These decks will likely have been built to maximize their chances against winning against Birthing Pod and Delver decks that have taken a major blow with the new bans. Still, having knowledge of the decks that managed to compete in the face of cards that have been deemed too powerful is important if we want to succeed in the new Modern. Let's take a look at some decks from recent Daily Events that managed to do well despite not playing with any of the banned cards:

Choody's Red Deck Wins (4–0 Magic Online Modern Daily Event)

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Aggressive red strategies will remain tier 1 for those that deemed it such and will likely become tier 1 in the eyes of those that didn't fully respect it. Eidolon of the Great Revel is one of the best-positioned cards for the new Modern, and there's often no better plan than burning the opponent's face off when everyone is starting from scratch. This list has cards like Jötun Grunt and Mutagenic Growth to position itself particularly well against Blue-Red Delver. Mutagenic Growth could still be used if there are a ton of Lightning Bolts and Forked Bolts in everyone's decks, but Jötun Grunt will likely be enjoying some bench time in the not-too-distant future.

CrisaoSilva's Zoo (4–0 Magic Online Modern Daily Event)

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Zoo is tremendously strong, especially now that players have access to Wild Nacatl without having to battle their way through Birthing Pods. Again, we see Eidolon of the Great Revel making an appearance to the surprise of no one. Zoo once proved itself to be the best deck in Modern. With Wild Nacatl in the mix, this becomes one of the best aggressive strategies against fair decks and it will have the ability to race the combo strategies. The deck will still find itself in a bad spot against Burn decks, but nothing is perfect. I feel like this is well-positioned to make some big waves in the new Modern.

Uota's Norin Soul Sisters (4–0 Magic Online Modern Daily Event)

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This deck is pretty wacky, but Uota seems to be crushing every Modern Daily Event with a 4–0 record, and it's worth taking a look at the deck if you haven't seen it. This deck has a ton of triggers that work with Genesis Chamber. Norin, the Wary may not seem like it does too much, but here it's pumping out bodies with Genesis Chamber, gaining life with Soul Warden and Soul's Attendant, and taking chunks out of the opponent with Purphoros, God of the Forge. The deck can find two copies of Norin, the Wary with Ranger of Eos to guarantee that it manages a ton of triggers basically forever.

It may seem odd, but fair decks will usually have some major problems dealing with this strategy. Uota certainly wins a ton of matches with the deck and I wouldn't be surprised if it became more popular in the coming weeks. Take a moment to discover all of the exciting interactions going on here before moving on to the next deck.

Scandimaniac's Pyromancer Ascension (4–0 Magic Online Modern Daily Event)

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Pyromancer Ascension aims to cast a ton of spells to the point where it copies rituals and draw spells ad nauseam before it uses Grapeshot to fire off the lethal finishing move. I've been ascending like a pyromancer for quite a long time, and I'd be thrilled if I thought this deck would be successful in the new Modern. Unfortunately, the Blue-Red Delver decks were the only thing keeping people from playing black-green strategies that perform very well against most combo strategies, especially Pyromancer Ascension. In my experience, Jund and Abzan are easily the worst matchups for this strategy.

Dreamcrusher119's Hexproof (3-1 Magic Online Modern Daily Event

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It's easy to forget about the Bogles, but those who always have the ace in their back pocket can easily catch a tournament off guard and completely demolish their opponents. The Hexproof strategy gets its name from its core creatures: a variety of otherwise unimpressive creatures with hexproof that are perfect for carrying a bunch of cheap Auras. The deck can struggle to beat combo decks, and the presence of Abrupt Decay in the black-green decks may cause some problems, but there's always a chance for this type of strategy to do well when it catches a format off guard.

All of the decks we just discussed have the ability to compete with and against Birthing Pod, Treasure Cruise, and Dig Through Time. However, the decks we're aiming to beat will change rather dramatically with the new banned cards. Most players seem most exciting about black-green-X decks like Jund and Abzan making a big comeback. Jund, Abzan, and Thoughtseize/Tarmogoyf decks the world over had a very difficult time in the world of Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time. Players would spend their first few turns emptying the opponent's hand and then all of their work would be for nothing when Treasure Cruise came off the top of their library. Now, black-green decks are better positioned than ever. Let's take a look at what those decks might look like.

Jacob Van Lunen's Modern Jund

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Jund combines the format's best disruption, creatures, and removal to create a strategy that has very few bad matchups and many strong matchups. Combo strategies and most creature decks find themselves struggling to stand up to the inevitability presented by Jund.

Willy Edel's World Championship Abzan

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Abzan decks lose Lightning Bolt, the best removal spell in Modern; but, instead, they have access to Lingering Souls, Siege Rhino, and Path to Exile. We'll likely see lists playing more copies of Lingering Souls and Path to Exile in the new Modern, where Delver decks aren't such a huge problem. Lingering Souls seems very good against Affinity, Infect, and control decks.

With a lot of players looking to black-green-X strategies, it makes sense for us to look for a deck that performs well against those decks. Traditionally, green decks that utilize Urza's Tower, Urza's Mine, and Urza's Power Plant have been incredibly strong against black-green-X. Let's take a look at what a Tron deck might look like in the coming weeks.

Jacob Van Lunen's Tron

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Ugin, the Spirit Dragon seems like an awesome addition to a deck that already seems like it could be an excellent choice going forward. Tron's wave of Wurmcoil Engine and top end threats are mostly nightmares for the black-green-X decks. Tron is also the absolute best strategy against control decks where it can simply wait for enough mana access before using Eye of Ugin to find Emrakul, the Aeons Torn to basically win the game on the spot by hard casting it.

Tron traditionally loses to combo decks, but the combo decks seem like they're pretty weak to Jund and Abzan, so it will be interested to see if Tron simply dominates or is kept in check by bad draws or the rise of a new combo strategy.

One of my personal favorite Modern strategies this last year was Faeries. I ended up retiring the deck because it performed so poorly against Blue-Red Delver and Birthing Pod. With those decks out of the picture, Faeries seems like a great viable option for the new Modern. Here's the list I was playing with last summer.

Jacob Van Lunen's Modern Faeries

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Faeries punishes control decks and often feels unbeatable when it's on the play, much like the Blue-Red Delver decks that just received the big bannings. The deck may struggle against Red and Zoo, but if those decks wane in popularity this could become a very big player.

Modern is rapidly changing, and we can be sure that we'll see tons of archetypes both old and new popping up in the coming weeks. We didn't even touch on decks like Scapeshift, Splinter Twin, or Affinity, and those are all big contenders for tier 1 in the new Modern. Stay tuned to Perilous Research and don't miss coverage of Pro Tour Fate Reforged to keep your finger on the pulse of the Modern Metagame!

Knowledge is power!

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